The Mini Museum
A brass candlestick / douter set, probably Victorian
Our Mini Museum (which is smaller than a single-car garage) is reputed to be the smallest museum in the world. That may or may not be true.....
At any rate, contained within its very small space we have assembled a considerable collection of candlesticks, lanterns, lamps, snuffers and douters, wick trimmers, oil burners -- from all over the world, and made of metal, glass, china, earthenware and wood. None of the items is particularly valuable, but when seen together they give a good impression of the "material culture" associated with the use of candles over the centuries -- initially as essential items in the lighting of homes and commercial premises, and more recently as luxury or 'lifestyle" items.
We also display a wide range of candle -making materials -- wicks, waxes, moulds and other accessories of the candle making trade.
On the walls we have displays and old photographs relating to candle-making techniques over time, and to some of the conventions and traditions of candle burning -- for example in religious ceremonies.
There is no charge for entry to the museum, but space is limited, so if you arrive at the Pembrokeshire Candle Centre with a large group, you will have to take it in turns to explore the exhibits.
Because the museum is on the ground floor, wheel chair access is easy.
A Victorian wick trimmer and douter, in which the smoking wick tip could be contained inside a little metal box.
Three rushlight holders. The one in the middle is a spring-loaded version. The other two have candle holders added -- these provide the weight which keeps the pincers closed on the rushlight, keeping it in position while it burns.
To make rushlights, mature rush stalks were gathered in summer or fall. The green epidermis or rind of each stalk was carefully peeled off to reveal the inner pith, but a single lengthwise strip of rind was left in place to provide support for the fragile pith.
After drying, the rush was then steeped in any available household fat or grease. Bacon grease was commonly used but mutton fat was considered best by some, partly because it dried to a harder, less messy texture than other fats. A small amount of beeswax added to the grease would cause the rush to burn longer. On more remote Atlantic islands such as St Kilda the stomach oil produced by Fulmars was used.
The burning rushlight was normally held by metal clips or pincers at an angle of about 45 degrees. If the rush was held vertically it tended to have a dimmer flame. If held horizontally it would burn too quickly.
The rushlight holder was usually mounted on an iron tripod or a wooden block. Antique rushlight holders are now collectors' items. They were never mass-produced but were individually made by local craftsmen and blacksmiths.
Two simple rushlight holders, each one mounted in a block of wood. These are very simple -- in each case the projecting "arm" provides just the right weight to keep the hinged jaws tight on the rushlight itself.
A variety of moulds of many shapes and sizes, and made with different materials -- especially tin, rubber and plastic. Glass moulds are also very popular.
Some items from our Mini Museum
An Indian oil burner -- still mass-produced in India to this day
Possibly the simplest and cheapest type of candle holder -- a gypsy candlestick made out of a split stick, with a copper band or ring around the base to prevent the stick from splitting end to end
A collection of Victorian china candlesticks, made in vast quantities during the 1800's by most of the big potteries.